UnitedHealthcare delays policy that would deny coverage for ER visits deemed non-emergencies

Facing backlash from hospital and patient groups, UnitedHealthcare announced Thursday it would delay a plan to reject coverage of some emergency room visits until the pandemic is over.

Under the plan, UnitedHealthcare wouldn't cover emergency room visits it determines weren't a true emergency, arguing that unnecessary ER visits drive up healthcare costs for everyone. But that has some health care leaders concerned that could prevent some patients from seeking help.

"And to expect a patient to know which chest pain is dangerous and which is not, or which stomach pain is dangerous and will lead to surgery and potentially death and which is heartburn just is not a good thing," said Dr. Rahul Koranne.

The Minnesota Hospital Association says the timing of this announcement couldn’t be worse.

"We have been out there with our physicians and nurses and care team saying come in, don’t be afraid to come in, and here we have this policy that’s going to have a chilling effect."

While the Minnesota-based insurance giant announced Thursday it will delay the implementation of the new policy, Dr. Rahul Koranne says a delay is not enough.

"We are open 24/7 and we expect the payers to pay for services 24/7," said the doctor.